The wonderful world of children’s books and the legends that accompany them is often something viewers take great pleasure in re-visiting. Perhaps it is because it’s a small piece of our childhood that we can re-capture for a few hours in becoming lost in a dream world on film or maybe it is nothing more than the love of a good film adaptation. Following up their immensely entertaining miniseries about a girl who didn’t know her own story could be found in bits and pieces of a dream, and an iconic yellow brick road, SyFy took on the world of Peter Pan in this, a nearly three hour miniseries that shows us the legend like we’ve never experienced before.
There is a doorway, a kind of portal to the mystical, unknown world of Neverland. Once it encounters human contact, it is virtually impossible for that person to ever return to their own land. For years, this place has been capturing unsuspecting victims into its world. It is on turn-of-the-century London streets that a group of pickpockets come across this orb. Led by the young, idealistic Peter (Charlie Rowe) who is quite adept at seeing that his companions make clean breaks from their marks, Peter has a loyal fondness for the man who rescued them all from the streets. Jimmy (Rhys Ifans) is a skilled swordsman who not only suffered personal tragedy but also lost any standing he had in London society. Now his life as the care-taker of a group of urchins and the running of a fencing school is not where he wants to be. As a result he enters into an agreement with a man to steal a specific piece from a prominent jeweler. Wanting to someday become Jimmy’s partner in crime, Peter rallies his friends and they set out to see the job complete, proving he has what it takes to be a leader. Before anything can be done, Jimmy comes onto the scene and catches them in the act. Something goes wrong and all but Peter disappear into no other place than Neverland. Pursued by a man who appears to be Jimmy’s employer (Charles Dance), Peter transports himself to the world to save his comrades.
Once there, Peter encounters a protective band of Indians including the lovely Tiger Lily (Q'orianka Kilcher) and discovers that his friends are in the custody of the fierce Spanish pirate, Captain Bonny (Anna Friel) save for his friend Fox. Given shelter by the Indians, the boys plot to save Jimmy against the better advice of their protectors. Things go horribly wrong and Peter is once again separated from Jimmy. Forging a tentative alliance with Bonny, James “Jimmy” Hook wants to retrieve the substance that the wood fairies make – a potion that allows humans to fly. Having been in Neverland for years, Bonny uses Hook for his futuristic knowledge while Peter finds his loyalties tested when he is confronted by the truth – and forges an ally in the wood fairy, Tinker Bell (voiced by Kiera Knightly).
SyFy has surprised me with its ability to entertain us through its creative outlets. The last two miniseries to air on the network were great fun, and I enjoyed the spunky heroines and silly dramatics. Although I was probably most familiar with the source material of this production, ironically (or unfortunately), this was the one that I thought least of. Poor visual effects seem to rule and nearly ruin the entire production unless, as a viewer, one simply lowers their expectations, in which case the series is more fulfilling. It seemed somehow odd that the effects were in such poor taste because low budget or not, technology provides for so much today – the editing room is an endless place of resources, and for anyone with an imagination, I suspect, anything could be dreamed up. Sadly, the team assigned to this production didn’t max out that budget… or it was in terribly pathetic and poor taste if they did so.
Countering its underused and underwhelming sound and special effects that should have been igniting our imaginations in such a production is some decent, nothing-to-sneeze at acting. The lead in Rowe gives us a naïve but determined Peter while such seasoned stars as Dance and Knightly add name recognition. Although we cannot help but love to hate her, it was fun to see Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) in something again and this wouldn’t be a proper review if I didn’t point out that Ifans makes an excellent villain – and we all know that he needs to be so in order to better compliment the heroes. Costuming isn’t horrible and the music shines at times. Though you could do worse in a magical journey, Neverland is – in my humble opinion¸ the least impressive to have come from SyFy. Having said that¸ it still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
(What to know: Implications suggest Jimmy and Bonny are sharing a bed – once we see them naked in bed together before they are interrupted and must cover up [we see backside nudity¸ waist up]. There is some swordplay and some characters die from their wounds [an alligator terrifies characters]. One man’s hand is sliced off [some blood]. Elsewhere others are threatened and/or double-crossed.)